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Blacklist: Centre Faults Nigeria’s Classification By US

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The Centre For African Liberation And Socio-Economic Rights (CALSER) has condemned the United States’ blacklist of Nigeria as a religious intolerant nation, describing the report and its intent as subjective.

According to CALSER, the U.S’ assertion is a disservice to Nigeria as it will serve to further aggravate the problems on the ground rather than help.

The centre made this known at a press conference on Friday by its Executive Director, Barrister Ehis Imoukhuede.

Contrary to claims by the United States, the CALSER said members of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN) or any other group were never prevented from worshipping in the fashion they prefer.

The centre further said that it is irresponsible to hold the Federal Government accountable for crimes committed by Boko Haram and ISWAP.

According to the group, it is misleading and unfair to infer that Boko Haram killed only Christians, adding that the classification of herdsmen as Muslims and farmers as Christians is a lazy stereotype that rings of racism.

The centre, however, advised the United States to send its mandarins to Nigeria to undertake a proper study of not just the religious relations in the country but to also understand the peculiar dynamics that do not lend themselves to the series of fallacies that made it into that report.

It added that the Nigerian government under President Muhammadu Buhari is working for the wellbeing of all Nigerians.

Read Full statement below:

The United States recently placed Nigeria on a religious freedom blacklist, in its Nigeria 2019 International Religious Freedom Report which is published on November 5, 2020. Let us state from the onset that this is a strategy for preparing the ground to impose sanctions on Nigeria if in the United States’ estimate it thinks that progress has not been made in ensuring religious freedom for the diverse ethnic nationalities of the country.

Unfortunately, the report and its intent are subjective going by what we can glean from it. For instance, the report in its executive summary said: “Throughout the year, Shia Muslims, under the auspices of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN), conducted a series of demonstrations – including several in July against the ongoing detention of IMN leader Sheikh Ibrahim El-Zakzaky – resulting in violent confrontations between protesters and security forces, which left as many as 30 dead, including protesters and police.”

Other noteworthy excerpts from the report are: “Terrorist groups including Boko Haram and ISIS-West Africa (ISIS-WA) attacked population centres and religious targets and maintained a growing ability to stage forces in rural areas and launch attacks against civilian and military targets across the North East, according to observers.”

The report further speculated that: “Conflicts between predominantly Muslim Fulani herdsmen and predominantly Christian farmers in the North Central states continued throughout the year, although the violence was lower than during the 2017-2018 spike, reportedly due to government intervention and efforts of civil society to resolve conflicts.”
Gentlemen of the press, from the foregoing you can see that the United States’ 2019 International Religious Freedom Report conclusions on Nigeria are a disservice to Nigeria because it will serve to further aggravate the problems on the ground rather than help.

First, it is inconceivable that the United States can regard security operations against IMN as a denial of religious freedom. No one prevented IMN members from worshipping in the fashion they prefer to the extent that they also respect the rights of other people, for instance, the right of others to have access to public infrastructures like the roads that its members usually obstruct. The reality is that IMN is a proscribed group based on constitutionally recognized processes, which included a White Paper on the Kaduna State Judicial Panel of Inquiry. The trial of its leader is by a competent court of Kaduna State, which leaves one wondering if the United States will tolerate Nigeria meddling into matters being handled by its circuit courts.

Secondly, it is a travesty that borders on being irresponsible to hold the Federal Government accountable for crimes committed by Boko Haram and ISWAP, which the United States and its media organizations have refused to properly designate as terrorist groups operating in the Lake Chad Basin. This refusal to so classify Boko Haram has been behind the absence of international support to eradicate it from operating in the region.

If Boko Haram’s crimes are being imputed to Nigeria, then the United States must accept joint responsibility as the nation that created the atmosphere that allowed these terrorists to thrive and torment Nigerians of all religious shades. The US’ activities in the Middle East and North Africa supported the growth of ISIS brand of terrorism and also flooded those areas with weapons that have found their way into the hands of Boko Haram terrorists.

We must not also lose sight of the fact that it is misleading and unfair to infer that Boko Haram killed only Christians or killed more Christians. Boko Haram kill Nigerians and the loss of any human life is a tragedy. Boko Haram bombed mosques and killed Muslims, Christians, Animist, Agnostics and Atheists all alike. Reducing the acts of terror being committed by Boko Haram to a sectarian debate is an irresponsible act that should not be encouraged.

Similarly, classifying herdsmen as Muslims and farmers as Christians is a lazy stereotype that rings of racism. It is in the same territory as Americans referring to Africa as a country when it is in reality a continent. The lack of Nigeria’s sectarian appreciation on the part of the US report is a major reason to discard its findings.
Furthermore, we observe that the report significantly relied on secondary sources like “news reports”.

Unfortunately, these reports that the report relied on were dominated by fake news and organizations that are involved in the manufacture of dissent. Some of the organizations that were cited were at some points in the past found complicit in sharing military intelligence with Boko Haram, which leaves us to question the reliability of what they passed on as news or facts. Some of the individuals that these organizations cited or interview are also questionable.

It is pertinent that the United States send its mandarins to Nigeria to undertake a proper study of not just the religious relations in the country but to also understand the peculiar dynamics that do not lend themselves to the series of fallacies that made it into that report.

The US must know not to act on fake news as this detracts from its global standing.

We want to categorically tell the United States that the Nigerian government under President Muhammadu Buhari is working for the wellbeing of all Nigerians. The military is fighting Boko Haram as the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and that is because the life of every Nigerian is considered important.

If the US is interested in intervening, we believe that it should start by not paying lips service to issues of Boko Haram, ISWAP and other terrorist entities that thrive because of its geostrategic activities like supporting al-Nusra affiliates in Syria, which in turn ship their US-supplied weapons to Boko Haram and ISWAP.

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Group Backs Call For EFCC, ICPC’s Probe Of Kogi Gov

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A socio-political group in Kogi State under the auspices of Progressives Mandate Movement (PMM) has expressed support for the call by the Anti-Corruption Network (ACN) to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC), for the investigation of allegations of financial mismanagement and corruption against Kogi State governor, Yahaya Bello.

It would be recalled that a former Kogi West Senator, Dino Melaye, had earlier in the week on behalf of the ACN petitioned the EFCC, ICPC, Transparency International, US Ambassador to Nigeria and the British High Commissioner to Nigeria over “financial recklessness, corruption, money laundering and fraudulent application of Kogi State’s resources” by Governor Bello and his cronies.

The group, however, alleged that Governor Bello had received over of N300 billion from the Federation Account in the last five years without reasonable or tangible achievement to show for it.

In a statement issued by the PMM chairman, Comrade Musa Enejo Stephens, in Lokoja on Thursday, the group urged the EFCC to expedite action on the investigation into the alleged financial management in Kogi State government under Governor Bello administration even as he said Bello has committed financial crimes against the people of the State.

According to him, “Yahaya Bello’s government has blindfolded the people of the State with series of lies since all this while on the allocation accrued to the State from Federation Account and as well mismanaged the huge resources accrued to the State which is against the spirit of openness, fairness, justice and accountability promised the people by All Progressives Congress APC led administration of President Muhammadu Buhari government.

“Governor Bello has plunged Kogi State into debt regime which the State may not recover from, in the next 10 years and Mr. Governor failed to give tangible explanations on how funds from federation account like; State allocation, Local Government, Allocation, Paris Refund, Bailouts Funds and Internally Generated Revenue accrued to the State and other,” he added.

Stephens, therefore, charged the newly appointed EFCC chairman, Abdulrasheed Bawa, to prove himself to Nigerians by commencing and expediting action by prosecuting those involved in the crimes detailed by the ACN petition.

He threatened that if the anti-graft agencies failed in their duty to act and do justice on behalf of Kogi people, the group will have no other option than to mobilise the people from the 21 local government areas of the State to the headquarters of the commission in Abuja and stage a protest.

He said Kogi State is now the new ATM for political jobbers of all sorts, saying all manner of characters troop to the state in number to declare support for governor Bello’s delusional ambition to become president in 2023.

He pointed out that presently, the state meagre resources were now being spent on Governor Bello’s presidential ambition on media advertorial including print media, electronics, outdoor billboards across the country even though it’s illegal to do such now as it contravenes the Electoral Act.

The PMM chairman commended the Minister of FCT Abuja and Kano State governor for ordering the removal of such billboards in their domains.

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Group Berates Ayeni Over Calumny Campaign Against Okunbo

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A group, National Youth Alliance of Nigeria (NYAN), has berated businessman, Dr. Olatunde Ayeni, over what it called his “campaign of calumny” against the chairman of Ocean Marine Solutions Limited (OMS), Capt. Idahosa Wells Okunbo.

NYAN said Ayeni, a former director and shareholder of OMS, contacted the group for a hatchet job against the person and business interests of Capt. Okunbo, especially the OMS.

National President of NYAN, Lucky Igbamodi, told journalists at a press conference that the group was hired to launch scathing campaigns against Capt. Okunbo in order to malign him through fictitious petitions and peddling of outright falsehoods.

Igbamodi said NYAN subsequently carried out its own investigation and found out that all allegations against Capt. Okunbo and OMS were untrue as they were fabricated for sinister motives by Ayeni.

“Making our stand public becomes necessary now lest the unsuspecting members of the public be misled about the real issues. Dr. Olatunde Ayeni mistook our group for agents of destruction for hire and we listened to him and carried our own investigations to ascertain the truth.

“We found out several things which point to a documented fact and established truth – that Dr. Olatunde Ayeni has since 2018 left the Board of OMS and as well sold his shares to Capt. Idahosa Wells Okunbo but only returns to launch a campaign of calumny against the latter just because Capt. Okunbo has a health challenge.

“Nigerians and non-governmental organisations should be wary of Dr. Olatunde Ayeni’s antics, which are all in bad faith and unbecoming of a businessman he claims to be,” Igbamodi added.

While wishing Capt. Okunbo quick recovery, the group admonished the Board of OMS to continue to support Okunbo and always stand by the truth as it has demonstrated so far.

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Apologise To Abia Gov Or Face Recall, Kogi West Youths Tell Adeyemi

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A group called Concerned Kogi West Youths has called on the Senator representing Kogi West, Smart Adeyemi, to immediately apologise to Abia State governor, Victor Ikpeazu, over his uncomplimentary comment on the latter or face recall from the Senate.

A statement issued by the group and signed Mr Michael Oluwaseun Bolorunduro on Monday said Senator Adeyemi must apologise to the Abia governor and the people of Abia State within seven days or be ready for the consequence.

The youths, however, apologised on behalf of the Kogi West people to Governor Ikpeazu for the “behaviour” of Senator Adeyemi on the floor of the Senate during a debate on the Safe School Initiative agaisnt the backdrop of incessant attacks on schools by bandits in the North last week.

“We the concerned Kogi West Youth are writing to apologise for the behaviour of the Senator representing Kogi West Senatorial District, Senator Smart Adeyemi, recently on the floor of the Hallowed Chamber.

“It took us this long to react or respond to his ungentlemanly attitude because the character trait that he displayed is alien to our culture in Kogi West. We tried to know reasons for such reactions and alas, we couldn’t find any justifiable and sensible reason for such.

“We, too, were personally shocked and offended by his actions and utterances which were a direct contravention of the values of dignity and good mannerism that we teach in our locality.

“We all know that emotions can get heated, but it does not excuse the language and behavior of our representative,” the group said.

They added that they as “wise constituents” have decided “to right the wrong of the malady and public show of shame as displayed by Senator Smart Adeyemi” to apologise and as well demand apology from Adeyemi.

“It is on this note that we demand that Senator Smart Adeyemi within seven days apologise at the same Hallowed Chamber of the Senate for his uncontrollable utterances against the governor and people of Abia State or face recal,” Bolorunduro declared.

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